The prenatal running directory is filled with empty pages, misinformation and fear. Understandably, for liability reasons, most experts don’t want to publicly hand out advice and so will almost always direct pregnant runners to seek their doctor’s approval and guidance before continuing their training. I don’t know about you guys, but around here, most runners are more qualified to give their physician training advice than the other way around.
This picture is from around 14 weeks pregnant:
I’m going to do my very best to act as a small stepping stone between the great divide in the sea of the prenatal running directory but please, keep in mind that I’ve been running marathons for twenty years, and on top of my running experience, I’m also pregnant with my fifth baby. So, this isn’t exactly my first rodeo. So I in no way expect the majority of you to fall into step with me in my training; this is not my goal. My goal for you is to feel empowered to keep up with your own personal training, and to conquer some of the fears that come with being a pregnant runner.
Ready? You with me? Okay, so these are the adjustments I made when I transitioned from Suzy the Runner to Suzy the Pregnant Runner:
1) To keep up my mileage, I divide up my runs into segments so that I can always be within a few miles of a bathroom if I need to go. If I want to run 10 miles on a Monday, then I’ll slog through 5 early miles outside, and then either take Callum for a stroller run later on in the day or finish up on the treadmill while he plays beside me.
2) To keep up my strength and fitness, I continue with speed work but make adjustments to the pace. But guess what? There’s no need to sit and calculate and convert pre-pregnancy paces to pregnancy paces because our bodies will do it for us. Hooray! I used to run 10-12 tempo miles at a 6:50 per min/mile pace and I gradually slowed down as each day/week rolled by. At week 19, I can hold onto a 6:50 min/mile pace for about a mile before I need to take a recovery break. How do I know to slow down? My body tells me in the exact same way it would tell me pre-pregnancy, if I were to attempt running my 10-12 tempo miles at say like a 6 min/mile pace. All the physical signs are the same: My body starts to break down by aching, by breathing too hard, by feeling lead legs, etc etc.
3) To keep running longer runs, I manage my fueling in a way that helps me have enough fuel and hydration to get me through the run but without feeling full, having indigestion, or struggling with GI issues. What works for me is to either run in the morning after having some cereal in the middle of the night (a few hours before I leave for my run, and I nurse a huge bottle of lemon water that I keep beside me on my nightstand), or to run in the afternoon but make sure I don’t eat or drink anything for 2-3 hours before I start running (I drink about 250mL of water right before I take my first running step). Leading up to the 2-3 hour fast, however, I make sure I eat a lot of easy to digest foods and get down at least a Litre of water. Most importantly, I’d never ever leave the house for a run until I’ve had a poo or two.
4) After I’ve taken all the precautions, I head out the door with an open mind, a wad of toilet paper and my cell phone. I make sure that there’s a washroom somewhere along my route (a toilet or a secluded bush area). And lastly, I work my butt off. Sometimes that looks like a 10 min/mile, and sometimes it’s a 7 min/mile but regardless, I’m out there making deposits toward my running lifestyle.
Being pregnant, my running goal has shifted from a sub-3 hour marathon to an eventual, sooner-than-later sub-3 hour marathon. You don’t have to be a 3 hour marathoner to be a competitive runner. You’ll know you’re passionate about your sport if you can feel the hairs on your arms stand on end when you think about getting through your next workout. When you think about what it’s going to feel like when you feel the wind whipping through your ponytail. When you think about how strong and invincible you feel when you’re out there, whether you’re running 6 min/miles or run/walking 12 min/miles.
A lot of women feel a loss of identity when they get pregnant and have babies because all of a sudden our purpose in life shifts from self-preservation to complete and utter responsibility for growing and feeding another human being. Whatever your passions are, whatever gives you a sense of purpose whether it’s running, writing, your job, collecting belly button lint, whatever it is, it’s so important to keep that fire burning. Having a baby shouldn’t replace your identity–it should add to it. Suzy the Runner doesn’t turn into Suzy the Mother. Oh no no no. I’m Suzy the Running Mother. Well, more like Suzy the Running Mother with GI Issues and Verbal Diarrhea.
And keep in mind that its pretty rare for a woman to be able to run through her entire pregnancy! So when you have to take a break, I encourage you to do what you can whether it’s keeping up your cardio with the bike, or working on your strength with some bicep curls, or doing some reading and researching different training plans or post-run brunch recipes for when you’re done with bedrest. Anything that can keep that flame burning will help you hold onto the sport.
What do you think about all of this? Is it information overload? There’s so much more but it was tough to even just fit this small section into a post!!!